A number of small businesses in Port Stanley, Ontario were hit with $10,000 worth of fines during a “provincial pandemic enforcement operation” this past weekend. 

James Street Home Decor co-owner Jessica Korbiel said in an interview with True North on Wednesday that two employees from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment came into her business and ticketed it this past weekend. 

Korbiel said the ministry employees handed her a $1,100 fine for “pandemic protocol violations.” These violations included a handmade safety plan instead of an official one, and staff not completing the COVID-19 safety checklist through the Ontario government’s website. 

“It’s literally just a paperwork problem,” said Korbiel. “Obviously it’s kind of a kick-you-when-you’re-down situation.” 

She said 11 other small businesses had been ticketed in Port Stanley, and three others received warnings. 

Two Forks co-owner Terrie Collard said an employee from the Ministry of the Environment came into her business on Friday and ended up giving her a fine. 

“I found him to be very abrupt and abrasive,” said Collard. “He proceeded to tell us all of the things in which we were doing wrong.” 

Collard said the ministry employee fined her business $1,000 because he said screening for her staff could have been better, the provincial safety plan was not at the front door and a server was not wearing safety glasses. 

She was told the server had to wear eye protection because guests were unmasked, but the small business owner said she had never heard of the rule before.

The affected businesses held a meeting on Tuesday, and all of them committed to fighting the fines individually. 

The Ontario Ministry of Labour confirmed to CTV News London that it oversaw a weekend enforcement operation and had borrowed employees from other ministries to carry it out. The operation was done with assistance from Southwestern Public Health. 

Korbiel said the Ontario government needs to do whatever it can to support small businesses during this time. 

“If there’s no small businesses, there’s a gigantic population that’s going to lose their jobs,” she said. 

The Ministry of Labour could not be reached for further comment in time for publication. 

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